In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Student Participation

  • Introduction
  • Key Anthologies of Student Participation
  • Noteworthy Organizations

Education Student Participation
Dana L. Mitra
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0066


A marked growth in student participation research has occurred in the past ten years. As the pressure to equate student outcomes with test scores increases, the broader democratic mission of schools is fading into the background. Rather than students being viewed as actors in the school system, they are typically constructed as part of the problem that needs to be fixed. The characterization of youth in American media tends to represent teenagers as uniformly resistant, rebellious, and determined to isolate themselves from adult-dominated structures. Consistent with this construction, research consistently finds that high school students frequently describe their school experiences as anonymous and powerless. To address this issue, student participation describes the many ways in which youth have opportunities to share in the school decisions that will shape their lives and the lives of their peers. Most often, student participation is focused on youth, who are defined as age 8 to 21. Current student participation efforts rarely resemble the student power efforts of the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, young people demanded the right to expression, due process, peaceful assembly, educational opportunity, and representation on school boards. Current emphasis on student voice fits within present-day contexts of school reform and student assessment by suggesting that educational change will be more successful if students participate. Whereas youth tend to have few opportunities for civic engagement, a growing body of research has examined the potential role of increasing student voice in schools.

Definition of Terms

Within the literature, a range of terms embody the spirit of student participation.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.